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Mind and Spirit

Jason Goldman on sliding-scale obstacles

Goldtoe Lemon.Nut: The 170-day Weekend

Goldman's back from taking a few months off, and shares a nugget that I like a lot:

When you have fewer responsibilities, those you do have take on a disproportionately larger weight. I found that no matter how little I actually had to worry about, I'd find some task or obligation that would become the "one big thing" nagging at me from void. Sometimes this one big thing would be laundry. The point is that you can always identify one obstacle in your life that, if removed, would make everything better (an annoying co-worker, a bad debt, a rash). Turns out this probably isn't true at all.

Amen, brother, and cf: 83 Problems.

[ via Nelson Minar's Linkblog ]

W. H. Murray on the power of starting

I've finally gotten around to reading The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It'd been recommended to me numerous times over the past few years -- most recently and publicly by David Allen during our podcast episode about procrastination.

I'll save a full review of the book for another time (hint: ala, Bird by Bird, it's a terrific tonic for procrastinating artists), but I can't think of a better way to welcome 2007 than by sharing this quote, which Pressfield borrows (p.122) from the Scottish mountain climber W. H. Murray:

Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.

Happy new year, kids. Start something cool.

Matthieu Ricard symposium at UCSF tomorrow

UCSF - Calendar of Events [Symposium on Happiness with Matthieu Ricard]

I’m looking forward to attending this symposium with the Mrs. tomorrow night on the campus of UCSF. Open to the public and maybe worth checking out if you share my interest in mindfulness and exploring Dharma practice.

Join us for a revolutionary look at happiness from one of the world’s most compelling voices on the subject. As a trained scientist and Buddhist monk, Matthieu Ricard, PhD is uniquely positioned in the dialogue between East and West. Drawing from works of fiction and poetry, contemporary western philosophy, Buddhist thought, current psychological and scientific research and personal experience, Ricard weaves an inspirational and forward looking account of how we can begin to rethink our realities in a fast-moving modern world.

[ More on Matthieu Ricard ]

Mindfulness, categories, and the 14 kinds of animals

List of animals (Borges) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I've been enjoying a wonderful book that a reader thoughtfully sent to me a couple weeks ago. It's called Mindfulness, and it presents some fascinating evidence on the ways that we process and parse our world, as well as the peculiarly human things that can happen when we unintentionally (natch) embrace mindlessness.

read more »

ADT & the catch-and-release distraction program

Why can't you pay attention anymore? | CNET News.com

Ever wonder what all those electronic poking sticks might be doing to your attention span?

Psychiatrist Edward Hallowell has identified a late-onset cousin of ADD that he calls "Attention Deficit Trait," a "condition induced by modern life" and the endless "chatter" generated by our beepy devices and interrupt-driven lifestyles.

I don't know enough to evaluate the rigor of this theory in the eyes of a researcher or physician, but this CNET interview with Hallowell is filled with enough right-on quotes to have me nodding along all day.

(read through, after the cut, for our first Mindfulness Exercise)

read more »

Mindfulness: The practice of being "here"

As I mentioned in a recent Lifehacker interview with Matt, I've been casting about for a good way to work in my newfound interest in mindfulness, or the ostensibly Buddhist practice of bringing your attention and focus back to the present moment, primarily through breathing and awareness.

Well, here you go: one rank Western novice's collection of blurbs and excerpts on an ancient (yet oddly timely) method for easing yourself back into this moment -- any day, at any time, and in anything you choose to do.

read more »

Dr. Johnson on reminders

This morning I've been starting to put together a little "Introduction to Mindfulness" post, and I ran across this quote that's been attributed to Dr. Samuel Johnson:

"People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed."

read more »

Lifehacked by Matt Haughey; mindfulness, ho

Interview with a Lifehacker: Merlin Mann - Lifehacker

Last Friday, Lifehacker guest editor, Matt Haughey was kind enough to do an email interview with me. It's mostly about Getting Things Done, but I was pleased to be able to sneak in something I've been meant to call out more formally here on the site.

read more »


pigeonA few things I've learned I don't need to know about the second they happen:

  • a new comment has been added to a 43 Folders post
  • a friend of mine has posted a new photo to Flickr
  • a very long message from a mailing list I never read has been delivered to my inbox
  • someone on LiveJournal is still disappointed with their (job|love life|roommate|hair|lunch|other)
  • Technorati reports a new post somewhere in the world tagged "web 2.0"
  • the temperature in San Francisco has dropped one degree Farenheit
  • my FedEx package is still in Memphis

And, yet these are all things that I used to monitor manually via my RSS reader. Refresh all. Refresh all. Refresh all. Refresh all. Refresh all. Madness.

read more »

Flow: How action and awareness get things done

A few good links and snippets on Flow -- a topic that's come a couple times before here and on the group, but which seems more germane than ever given a lot of what [the royal] we have been talking about lately. More deets on buying the book at the end, although there seem to be plenty of chewy resources on the web if you just want an introduction.


From c2:

"Flow" is a mental state of deep concentration. It typically takes about 15 minutes of uninterrupted study to get into a state of "flow", and the constant interruptions and distractions of a typical office environment will force you out of "flow" and make productivity impossible to achieve.

From wikipedia:

As Csikszentmihalyi sees it, there are components of an experience of flow that can be specifically enumerated; he presents eight:

  1. Clear goals (expectations and rules are discernable).
  2. Concentrating and focusing, a high degree of concentration on a limited field of attention (a person engaged in the activity will have the opportunity to focus and to delve deeply into it).
  3. A loss of the feeling of self-consciousness, the merging of action and awareness.
  4. Distorted sense of time - our subjective experience of time is altered.
  5. Direct and immediate feedback (successes and failures in the course of the activity are apparent, so that behavior can be adjusted as needed).
  6. Balance between ability level and challenge (the activity is not too easy or too difficult).
  7. A sense of personal control over the situation or activity.
  8. The activity is intrinsically rewarding, so there is an effortlessness of action.

Not all of these components are needed for flow to be experienced.

From The Man Who Found the Flow:

Of the eight elements, one in particular emerged as the most telling aspect of optimal experience: the merging of action and awareness. In Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T.E. Lawrence sounded a similar theme, when he wrote that "happiness is absorption." As the thirteen-century Zen master Dogen pointed out, in those moments when the world is experienced with the whole of one's body and mind, the senses are joined, the self is opened, and life discloses an intrinsic richness and joy in being. For Csikszentmihalyi, this complex harmony of a unified consciousness is the mode of being toward which our own deepest inclination always points us.

From Interfaces for Staying in the Flow:

In summary, interfaces that are targeted at improving user's ability to stay in the flow shouldn't underestimate the importance of speed in supporting creativity, quality, and enjoyment. Every time there is an interruption, literal or conceptual that gets in the way of users concentrating on their tasks, flow is lost. Slow interfaces, which I define as any that get in the way of users acting on their work as quickly as they can think about it, are problematic.

Online places to pick up a copy of Csikszentmihalyi's book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience:




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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